Ex-England rugby player Kat Merchant and former Uxbridge College student and Millwall Lionesses player Rianna Dean inspired girls from west London schools as part of This Girl Can 2018.

The visits by the World Cup rugby winner and Lionesses footballer backed the national campaign to encourage more women to take part in sport and physical activity.

Ex-England rugby player Kat Merchant (pictured with the girls) gave an inspirational talk and training session to girls from west London schools to mark the This Girl Can 2018 campaign at Uxbridge College, organised by Eloise Newman, Course Team Leader and Sports Lecturer. Kat shared her triumphs and challenges with the group, as well as talking to Uxbridge College students. Starting her sporting career as a gymnast before transitioning into rugby, Kat found the strength and skillset developed in gymnastics helped her to progress quickly in the sport and was invited to England trials early on. She was unsuccessful in her first attempt at selection but used this to motivate herself to succeed further.

She told the girls: “I’m really pleased to be here as part of the This Girl Can campaign, it’s such an important campaign. You girls, you can do anything you want to, any sport you set your sights on go for it and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t, because you can. Find your thing and go for it.”

Kat earned her first international cap during the 2005 Six Nations, after several unfortunate injuries she worked hard to once again represent her country at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens; 2010, 2014 Women's Rugby World Cups and coached a Women's rugby team from Sri Lanka in 2015. Overall she earned 58 caps, scored 44 tries and was part of the World Cup winning team in 2014. Now she is working hard to grow her own successful personal training business and coaches Chesham Stags RFC Men’s teams.

There was also a talk by former Uxbridge College Sports student and international footballer Rianna Dean, now with Millwall Lionnesses, having previously played for Arsenal Ladies.

Rianna spoke about how education played a big part in her achievements and highlighted how Uxbridge College allowed her to study and train at the same time, working with her to help her meet her deadlines. She emphasised to the girls, “It was only right that I gave my lecturers the same respect back, by putting in the hard work and producing good quality work. You can do that in your life too, you are in control of the hard work you put in to whatever you do.”

Martina Ashton, Section Manager for Sport at Uxbridge College, said: “It was brilliant to have Kat Merchant and Rianna Dean here for Uxbridge College’s annual This Girl Can event and just as good to see the girls from a total of seven West London schools learning new skills and gaining inspiration. Many of them knew very little about rugby, so it was a great chance for them to try out some basic skills, and also get a flavour about how success at the highest level is simply about hard work and commitment.”

Uxbridge College’s This Girl Can event also involved Zuu training - a style of training using movements from the animal kingdom  - as well as pilates, boxing, handball, netball and an educational workshop focusing around sports development and the different career opportunities available to the girls in the sports and leisure industry.

Schools taking part in the event were: The Harefield Academy; Dormers Wells High School; Nower Hill High School; Ruislip High School; Haydon School; Wembley High Technology College; Vyners School.

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